Duke ITAC - February 13, 2003 Minutes

DUKE ITAC - February 13, 2003 Minutes

Minutes: February 13, 2003

Attending: Ed Anapol, Mike Baptiste, Pakis Bessias, John Board, Paul Conway, Ken Hirsch (for Dick Danner), Angel Dronsfield, Brian Eder, Randy Haskin (for Nevin Fouts), Tracy Futhey, Patrick Halpin, Billy Herndon, David Jarmul, Robert Zimmerman (for Scott Lindroth), Roger Loyd, Melissa Mills, George Oberlander, Jim Coble (for Lynne O'Brien), Molly Tamarkin, Fred Westbrook, Robert Wolpert

Guests: Bob Newlin, Alfred Trozzo, Ginny Cake, Kyle Johnson, Craig Henriquez, Jim Rigney, Phil Lemmons, Ben Riseling, Dan McCarriar, Michael Gettes

Call to order: Meeting called to order 4:03 pm.

I. Review of minutes and announcements

Robert Wolpert: There are new faces here. Let’s go around the room with some introductions. (All introduce themselves and describe their affiliation with Duke.)
Robert Wolpert: Astonishingly we seem to have no announcements. We’re going to skip around in the agenda to accommodate some latecomers. First we’ll hear about new cellular telephone plans from Ginny Cake.

II. New cellular plans

Presented by Ginny Cake

The last meeting brought up that we are in the middle of contract negotiations with ALLTEL. When considering a vendor and new plans we looked globally for Duke. ALLTEL has developed the Total Freedom Plan since our last contract with them. Highlights of the Total Freedom Plan are the following:
nationwide roaming—Previously, we paid for roaming charges.
free nationwide long distance—Calls do apply to the package minutes package, but there is no extra charge for long distance.
unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling—It is limited to a certain regional area, but this is good for groups like facilities management that make a lot of on-campus calls.
5000 night and weekend minutes per subscriber
We tried to align the new plans to our needs based on the past history of calling plans at the University. Dana Risley conducted an audit to see how the plans we were using before would match up with the new ALLTEL plans. He discovered that one thing that was missing from the new ALLTEL offerings was a low-minute, low-cost plan, and we negotiated for and got a 150-minute plan.
We are working with business managers and we have recommended a plan for each person based on past usage. Also, we’re going to try to capture names on the accounts so the business managers can keep track of who’s calling. This was not done before. New plans will be effective March 1. We are waiting until then so the business managers can review the plans and be ready for the sign up.
ALLTEL is working to install a cell site on the Crowell quad at the clock tower. It will take another 6 weeks before that will happen. They are also going to conduct another survey to ensure that we get better penetration, and to learn how they can improve in the future. We know we have dead spots on campus and we hope we can get the same type of coverage for cell phones that we do for pagers.
John Board: How many Duke customers are there?
Ginny Cake: Thousands, that is how we got such good deal.
Robert Wolpert: How far before we start roaming?
Ginny Cake: Not too far, but it doesn’t matter because there is not fee for roaming.
Robert Wolpert: Even if we are using someone else’s tower?
Tracy Futhey: The new plans allow national coverage at no additional fee regardless of who is the provider.
Ginny Cake: Angel and I are going to proactively look at the bills and see if everyone is within their plan minutes. If people go over we are going to suggest they upgrade the plan.
George Oberlander: Are folks on the existing arrangement going to get some sort of notice?
Ginny Cake: We are working through the business managers, and we hope to get that taken care of.

III. Homework database update and recommendations

Presented by Melissa Mills
Related url: http://aas.duke.edu/classrooms/homework/report

I’ve been here a couple times talking about the online, Web-based homework database committee. It is a committee appointed by Bob Thompson (Robert Thompson, Jr., PhD, Dean of Trinity College) and chaired by Bill McNairy (William McNairy, PhD, Departent of Physics), and it is a combination of faculty from different disciplines. The committee’s charge was to look at what is available in the form of homework database systems. The committee’s final report was submitted a few weeks ago, and these are the recommendations from that report:
These can plug into similar efforts that are looking into content management, but that are not in arts and sciences.
1) Continue coordinated efforts to identify and develop a Web-based homework tool
Energy is being invested by Slavics, Economics, Physics, the CIT, Mathematics and Chemistry to build and/or identify appropriate tools. It is unlikely to be economically feasible to support maintenance of multiple uncoordinated efforts over time.
2) Re-appoint a joint faculty/IT committee to act as steering committee for ongoing coordination, assessment and development efforts
There is not today a system to recommend which includes the basic technical and user features. The alternatives identified in this report are in a dynamic state. A partnership between faculty and IT staff will support balance through the next steps, assessing tools such as Brownstone’s EDU and systems available through the OKI core collaborators.
3) In conjunction with the Center for Instructional Technology (CIT), evaluate Brownstone’s EDU, a plug-in to Blackboard, as a potential short-term solution
The EDU database tool received the highest weighted score combining the committee’s identified features. As a Blackboard compatible plug-in, it could serve as a short-term, and possibly a long-term resource. EDU’s user features come very close to tracking the weighted priorities established by the committee. There are technical questions about its architecture, portability between platforms and data security which will be better answered through an on-site pilot. The committee understands CIT is interested in undertaking this kind of evaluation.
4) Research and evaluate existing tools and code developed by OKI collaborators for possible integration into a Web-Based Homework Delivery System
As an effort parallel to the EDU evaluation, we recommend that A&S staff contact colleagues at other institutions who have been working in collaboration with the OKI with the objective of cataloging and categorizing the elements of homework systems that have already been developed.
5) Re-commit the Physics Department instructional programmer position to instructional programming
The Physics instructional programmer position has in the past year been absorbed into the basic systems support of the department, reducing the staffing that had been allocated to the support of instructional technology. The addition of a systems administrator position in Physics would allow the current position to participate in ongoing evaluation and development efforts. Support for this position would need to come from the A&S Computing budget.
6) Undertake architectural design of Web-based delivery system following OKI specifications and using existing OKI-developed modules with existing programmers working under faculty steering committee
The current Economics Department system and the former system used by the Physics Department both need migration paths. In order to shorten the amount of time that Physics is without such a system and to minimize the likelihood that Economics will experience a gap in systems, this fundamental work should be started as soon as possible.
7) Seek greater collaboration with the wider Duke University community (i.e., other schools, Digital Library Initiative, etc.)
As the digital library develops, and the University begins explorations into the use of content management systems (CMS) for mainstream Web applications, it will be useful for faculty and staff involved in this specialized CMS to remain in close contact. This was also recommended by ITAC. John Board: It sounds like we are both developing existing tools and creating tools of our own?
Melissa Mills: We have some tools that are already being used, and we have one tool written in the economics department that is not scalable. Some things defined by OKI have been written and are used in different school programs. We would like to catalog what is already available so we can see what has already been written and what needs to be written.
There is a lot of complexity and rationality at the database level. We need to make sure the expectations are correct. One expectation is that we will build through successive approximation of what works. We will reuse code and continue to share with other schools. This is an ongoing thing.
Pat Halpin: What about security issues and relying on other institutions to keep the information secure? Who is going to monitor that?
Melissa Mills: We would like a product that allows problems to be shared so there is a way of tagging each problem with who has authorization to use it. We would like to pilot the building of content. The way you design the system is how you get the security. Dr. Yu (Dr. Yunliang Yu, PhD, Senior Systems Programmer, Dept. of Mathematics) here at Duke, who is very good with security, is willing to consult on the project.
Tracy Futhey: Should this be a Duke-wide initiative? What is helpful to you and Bob at this point?
Melissa Mills: I want to hear what you think about interest in the idea—cautionary comments? Bob had not talked with the deans since I spoke with him last. I want feedback from ITAC as to what would represent a wider community involvement. A homework database could have larger concerns, how do we hinge the project with CMS? Should other modules that are open source be available to others at the University who are not really interested in a homework database?
Robert Wolpert: First, every now and then there is a flurry of activity of ways to present math on the Web. There is still reason to hope—the technology is changing. Second, Pat’s point about sharing material across universities is a good one. One can imagine leaks. Someone might end up selling homework problems before we put them up there on the database. The sharing of materials one has to expect will lead to students encountering them before they are assigned.
Melissa Mills: You have random variables to help discourage that. The instructor decides whether the student gets any feedback (the answers) immediately or not.
Robert Wolpert: The document starts out with recommendations, but it doesn’t list expectations or who expects to be involved?
Molly Tamarkin: Other groups on campus that may have an interest could be the library and CIT, but I can’t think of any other groups that might be interested in this type of technology.
Tracy Futhey: Are there any other groups here [at ITAC] interested in this?
Fred Westerbrook: We’d like to see what is going on.
George Oberlander: Maybe Continuing Education would be interested? For some of the technical certificate programs this would be a natural.

IV. Revised Duke home page - final look/input

Presented by Ben Riseling, David Jarmul
Related url: http://www.duke.edu

The feedback process has been live and ongoing since January 1, and will be ongoing as a feature of the site. We don’t have many new major changes since the last report I made to ITAC. We received over 300 e-mail submissions—many quite lengthy. They have been across the board, from alumni, undergrads, general public, faculty, staff, and administrators. Also, other universities have been contacting us, interested in our methods for redesigning the site.
Our goals for the site were:
Make it better
Improve the navigation
Keep the search engine
Have a school listing
Get rid of the gothic font (We were given specific instructions to get rid of the gothic font from rather high up.)
We put many options on the table to consider—some elaborate and others not. We did not choose to take on a formal branding process with this site. If you look at the Med Center you see they have a formal brand. There are good and bad reasons for doing that.
I talked with Rob Carter to confirm our schedule, and our plans to port the new site will probably take place next week. The goal is to have the site fully live by Friday.
None of the other pages will be turned off, we don’t control those pages nor do we have the resources to do massive redirects. Many people have bookmarked those pages so we are leaving them up.
The entire site redesign has been done without the CMS and we are all waiting for the CMS to come down. The site was based on two designs and will port easily to a CMS.
Robert Wolpert: the old pages will be an embarrassment after a time. Can we add a sunset date to them?
Ben Riseling: The site itself has been in place for 7 years and it has grown without documentation as to what pages are where and on what servers. There is quite a bit of auditing to do still. A lot of pages we are leaving on are calendar pages and links to exam schedules and things that are not brought into the current calendar so we can’t just get rid of those things yet.
Molly Tamarkin: Going back to the original site it really does look antiquated compared to the new site.
David Jarmul: We added libraries and a button for computing on the page.
Mike Baptsiste: When the site is ported you still cannot go to Duke.edu without getting a 404 error. You have to have the www in the URL.
George Oberlander: Design is clean and straightforward. On a high-res monitor there is a lot of white space. Is that something you can do, make it automatically size to the screen? Also, there is a computing…
Tracy Futhey: That will be fixed. We have it in a temporary place but it will be moved and fixed.
Ben Riseling: You will probably find as many sites in large institutions and corporate sites aligning everything top left and making them expandable, but the debate rages on. We were asked to keep the home page small, but the internal pages fill up the screen pretty well. The current trend for people with very large screens and high resolutions is to open multiple windows on their screens. The good thing is it’s the Web, and it can change.
Ken Hirsch: When you click on academic links it seems you get the administrative page and not the academic portion.
Ben Riseling: We often point to the bulletin done by the Registrar’s Office if someone clicks on an academic link. Many schools didn’t have a completed list so we opted to go to the Registrar’s page.

V. Back-to-school 2002 & early thoughts for 2003

Presented by Jim Rigney

Last year we put together a program called the Duke Technology Advantage Program (DTAP). Tthe idea was to provide students with supported computers to alleviate some of the problems we were seeing at the Help Desk.
We delivered 753 systems, about half the freshman class. Of those, 621 were notebooks. We almost doubled the amount of the notebooks from last year. Dell took 85%. IBM 15%. Apple, the other 3%.
They went for the high-end machines. To date, under our warrantly we’ve replaced 10 screens, and 5 systems with major spill damage. Anything citric seems to eat the mother boards. The damage rate is down this year, but the Help desk is seeing more support issues.
For next year, we’re looking at Intel and what they are doing. March 5 they will release the M processor. It will actually be slower than Pentium. March 12 all major manufacturers will release their new systems. At the same time Intel will release the Centrino. There will be a marketing blitz. Centrino has Intel processors, Intel wireless and Intel chip set. Other machines with the Intel processor will just be referred to as Intel M.
The beauty of the Intel M is it runs slower, less heat, smaller boxes, and longer battery life. We heard with two batteries the expectation is 8 hours of life.
Questions I have for ITAC:
DVDR? Other schools are seeing this and it is killing their networks. Do we want to go there?
Robert Wolpert: It is inevitable.
Ginny Cake: They will bring DVDRs anyway.
Robert Wolpert: How soon do you have to decide what mix to offer?
Jim Rigney: Probably March 12. The timelines I face are marketing.
Ginny Cake: Another is testing if we want to preload software. Last year we did not have time to get preloaded software on. We have to work within manufacturers parameters, and we have to find time to test.
Robert Wolpert: Who gets desktop machines as opposed to notebooks? People with lower budgets or higher-end computing folks?
Jim Rigney: It’s mostly budget.
Robert Wolpert: Maybe we should be offering engineering students dual processors?
Mike Baptsiste: Engineering students build a lot of machines themselves.
Fred Westerbrook: Are you selling many docks?
Jim Rigney: Not to students. Mom and Dad are typically the ones paying for this, and they don’t see the need to spend another four- to five-hundred dollars.
Mike Baptsiste: What about wireless cards? Are they recommending A or G?
Jim Rigney: IBM is recommending Bluetooth.
[collective moan from members present]
Jim Rigney: My next question for ITAC is monitors vs. flat panels? Students tend to buy monitors. I think that is a money issue. On the campus we sell flat panels. Students don’t want to spend the money.
Robert Wolpert: I think we should push the flat panel and give them a downgrade option to a monitor.
Jim Rigney: Ultra-lites we offered, but we had no takers. They wanted the drives and the big screens. Are there any other options we want to offer?
Robert Wolpert: Does everything we offer have wireless? RG45?
Jim Rigney: Yes. Everyone received a cable and a physical locking cable. IT seems laptop thefts are down.
Ginny Cake: For people that brought their own computer to campus and didn’t take advantage of the DTAP program, it is difficult for the Help Desk to tell them we won’t help them. But if it is a hardware issue or something they have installed on it or messed up by them themselves, we try to spend a limited amount of time. At some point we are going to have to scale back on that.
Robert Wolpert: Are you saying you help the DTAP students as much as they need and everyone else gets maybe 20 minutes?
Ginny Cake: Yes.
Robert Wolpert: Are we still price competitive? In the past we have been under street price in August, but by October or so we are no longer competitive with mail order companies?
Jim Rigney: Students buy in August and then we don’t see them again. After that we work with vendors to keep our prices down on other systems in the store. After August we’ll see a couple grad students after Christmas, but the only undergrads we see then are looking for supplies.
Craig Henriquez: What about tablets?
Jim Rigney: We are looking into that. IBM says their research has found students would rather type than write. The Medical Center is using tablets and finding they are popular with their staff.
Robert Wolpert: Is it possible to exploit the low-end system with fewer options to keep the price down?
Jim Rigney: With students we try to give the features they need, but we don’t allow them to add on many options.

VI. Techology disscussion with Michael Gettes

Tracy Futhey: Michael is starting in April. He’s on vacation and we pulled him in here so you could meet him.
Michael Gettes: Good to be here.
Last week in Tempe Arizona I attended three meetings at NEtedEDU. That’s high-end networking and how we develop a national footprint for fiber and drive the science, the e-science, if you will. As you push on computing it pushes out on networking and networking pushes back. There are a lot of issues to work out. But I think the emphasis will be on the researchers to come up with some cool stuff. It is not just for physics anymore.
Another focus is on IT security which relates to national security. One of the key components in terms of higher education is IT security and where middleware plays into that.
Another meeting was Base camp. This was concerned with campus architecture and a middleware planet. This brings core middleware together with quick computing and tries to figure out how to enable it.
Another meeting was concerned with directory-abled networking. Do you use your social security number? Do you use a directory to publish things? What about authorizations? We really need ways of describing how people can do things.
128 people showed up, in the past it was about 32 people. Out of that about 95-100 were from universities. This was not the usual suspects. This was a way to get the word out and get closer to creating the federated environment we all keep talking about.
One of the things that drew me to Duke is the many different disciplines that want to do things with technology. I hope we can leverage that to create something good for everyone.
Robert Wolpert: Help us understand the interaction between OKI and middleware in general.
Michael Gettes: There are some lines drawn directly between us. The Middleware Architecture Committee for Education (MACE) group for example.
We are having discussion at various times. As I understand it, OKI is still concentrating on the APIs. We had discussions about directories for OKI? I don’t think we want things like Blackboard to decide this for us. Central but delegated administrative capability is what several groups are shooting for.
So far WebCT has done Shibboleth. Blackboard has tested a version on Shibboleth. The question is how do we get that out of the Blackboard folks without them charging us for our own data?

VII. Other business

none.